All Write Already!

A Completely Unpretentious Literary Podcast

Episode 29 – Susan Orlean, Plus Our Favorite Gifts for Writers

December 11, 2013 by karenshimmin
Orlean, headshot Photo Credit Gaspar Tringale

Photo Credit: Gaspar Tringale

Today we’re bringing you our conversation with Susan Orlean. We called up Susan to ask her about her pile of 800 index cards, why Twitter is her favorite unproductive distraction, and the dwindling access to editorial input in the world of new media.

In Susan’s words:

“It’s not hard to get your work published – it’s never been easier. You write and you press a button. That’s never been the case. This is the absolute heyday of being able to publish. But not only do those new forms not offer editorial input, I don’t know that people at newspapers get as much editing as they used to. Certainly in the book business they don’t. And that’s a problem, because anybody – no matter who they are, no matter how much experience they have – needs and benefits from an editor’s eye.”

Plus, the holidays are here and with them comes the anxiety of gift giving. What should you get that special writer in your life?

Any writer in the midst of research would love the Susan Orlean-endorsed Live Scribe pen or a program like Evernote or Scrivener. But we also have our eyes on a stovetop espresso machine, a tube of nice lipstick, and the coolest book-themed apparel we’ve ever seen. Let us know what’s on your list! If we all work together, we can prevent an outbreak of present face.

Susan Orlean is the bestselling author of eight books, including The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup; My Kind of Place; Saturday Night; and Lazy Little Loafers. In 1999, she published The Orchid Thief, a narrative about orchid poachers in Florida, which was made into the Oscar-winning movie, Adaptation, written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze.  Her 2011 book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, an account of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to international icon, was a New York Times bestseller and a New York Times Notable book.  It won the Ohioana Book Award and the Theatre Library Association’s Richard Wall Memorial Award.


Orlean has been a staff writer for the New Yorker since 1992. Her subjects have included umbrella inventors, origami artists, skater Tonya Harding, and gospel choirs.  She has also written extensively about animals, including show dogs, racing pigeons, animal actors, oxen, donkeys, mules, and backyard chickens. Her work has also been published in Esquire, Rolling Stone, Outside, Smithsonian, and the New York Times.

Orlean graduated with honors from the University of Michigan and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 2003. In 2012 she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Michigan.  She has served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the Associated Writing Program literary awards, the Bakeless Prize, the Bellevue Literary Awards, and the Iowa Review literary award. She lives in Los Angeles and in upstate New York with one dog, three cats, eight chickens, three ducks, and her husband and son.

Susan was in Chicago for the Chicago Humanities Festival! Check the full video here.


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3 Responses to “Episode 29 – Susan Orlean, Plus Our Favorite Gifts for Writers”

  1. […] you listened to her interview with the literary podcast All Write Already that came out the same day, you’d have her […]

  2. […] – Author Susan Orlean, extolling a side benefit of Twitter, on the All Write Already! podcast […]

  3. […] a recent episode of the literary podcast All Write Already! Susan Orlean said, “I’ve always been skeptical about the value of blogs.” While I […]